Britney Spears, Steven Tyler Want You to Ask Permission Before You Remix Their Songs

Ozzy Osbourne and Dr. Dre have some thoughts to offer, too.

Singer Britney Spears performs on ABC's 'Good Morning America' at The Big Apple Circus tent at Lincoln Center on December 2, 2008 in New York City.
National Journal
Laura Ryan
Add to Briefcase
Laura Ryan
Feb. 12, 2014, midnight

In 2001, Aer­o­s­mith’s Steven Tyler joined with Brit­ney Spears to sing “Walk This Way” at half­time of the Su­per Bowl. Now the duo is re­unit­ing — though not to per­form.

Along with Ozzy Os­bourne, Sting, and Dr. Dre, Tyler and Spears told the De­part­ment of Com­merce Monday that song­writers, not copy­right law, should de­term­ine who can re­mix or mash-up their mu­sic.

In the age of You­Tube, re­mixes have be­come an art form un­to them­self. To foster cre­ation in this area, the Pat­ent Of­fice’s Ju­ly 2013 copy­right re­view ex­plored cre­at­ing a com­puls­ory li­cense that would al­low any­one to use a song to re­mix or sample for a set fee.

Tyler, who led the ef­fort with the help of mu­sic in­dustry law­yer Dina LaPolt, said such a leg­al struc­ture would take away the artist’s power to de­term­ine how their mu­sic is used.

“Ap­prov­al is by far the most im­port­ant right that an artist pos­sesses,” LaPolt wrote. “If an artist does not want his or her mu­sic used in a cer­tain way, no amount of money will change his or her mind.”

Mu­sic artists are par­tic­u­larly con­cerned that their mu­sic could be aligned with a polit­ic­al or com­mer­cial mes­sage they do not sup­port. For ex­ample, the Eagle’s Joe Walsh—who also sent a let­ter op­pos­ing a com­puls­ory li­cense—took is­sue with Illinois Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Joe Walsh re­work­ing the lyr­ics to his song “Lead the Way” dur­ing the Con­gress­man’s 2010 cam­paign.

The task force’s of­fi­cial com­ment peri­od ended on Janu­ary 8, but the artists were gran­ted spe­cial per­mis­sion to sub­mit their com­ments late.

Oth­er is­sues ex­plored in the Com­merce De­part­ment’s In­ter­net Policy Task Force’s “green pa­per” in­clude up­dat­ing the li­cens­ing struc­ture for ter­restri­al ra­dio and re­view­ing the first-sale doc­trine that al­lows con­sumers to re­sell products.

Copy­right laws are un­der­go­ing re­view in Con­gress as well, but mean­ing­ful le­gis­la­tion has not been in­tro­duced. The next step for the IPTF, which brings to­geth­er the U.S. Pat­ent and Trade­mark Of­fice and Na­tion­al Tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions and In­form­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, will be pre­par­ing a form­al re­com­mend­a­tion for Con­gress, though a timeline has not been set.

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